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Brief Accident Cases

of Boilers and Pressure Vessels


in Hong Kong

This guidebook is prepared by the


Occupational Safety and Health Branch
Labour Department
First Edition
This Edition

March 2000
June 2008

Disclaimer
"While the authors and the publisher believe that the information and
guidance given in this work are correct, all parties must rely upon their
own skill and judgement when making use of it. Neither the author nor
the publisher assumes any liability to anyone for any loss or damage
caused by any error or omission in the work, whether such error or
omission is the result of negligence or any other cause. Any and all
such liability is disclaimed."

This guidebook is issued free of charge and can be obtained from


offices of the Occupational Safety and Health Branch of the Labour
Department. For enquiries about addresses and telephone numbers
of the offices, please visit the website of the Department at
http://www.labour.gov.hk/eng/tele/osh.htm or call 2559 2297.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION

PAGE
3

Case 1

Explosion Of A Pressure Cooker Resulting in Injury


Of A Baby And Damage In The Store-Room

Case 2

Overloading Of Electrical Wiring Resulting In A Fire


That Damaged The Boiler Control Panel Completely

Case 3

The Explosion Of A Cauldron Damaging The


Surroundings Extensively

Case 4

A Boiler Fire Caused By A Leaky Fuel Oil Pipe


Resulting In Burnt Injury Of A Boiler Operator

11

Case 5

A Fire Caused By Boiler Fuel Splashing On The Hot


Surface Resulting In Burnt Injury Of A Boiler Operator

13

Case 6

Steam And Hot Water Rushed Out From The


Crack-Opened Cover Of Steam Kier Resulting
In Serious Scald Of The Boiler Operator

15

Case 7

Fatal Accident Caused By The Burst Opening


Of A Steam Manifold End Plate

18

Case 8

A Worker Being Scalded By Steam From


The Burst Steam Manifold

21

Case 9

Improper Operation Of A Steam Kier Resulting


In Casualty

23

Case 10

Unauthorized Repair On Boiler Pressure Parts


Making It Unsafe For Operation

25

Case 11

Explosion Of The Steam Kier Resulting In Serious


Damage To The Premises And A Fatality

27

Case 12

Steam Blown Off From The Steam Pipe To The Steam


Iron Resulting In Minor Scald Injury Of A Worker

30

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

CONTENTS

PAGE

Case 13

Hot Fluid Discharged From A Steam Kier Resulting


In Serious Injury Of A Technician And The Death
Of The Supervisor

32

Case 14

Fire Caused By The Residual Oil Being Ignited


By Sparks Resulting In Damage To The Boiler
Front And Burner

35

Case 15

A Boiler Explosion Due To The Ignition Of Un-burnt


LPG Resulting In Injury Of A Boiler Attendant

37

Case 16

Boiler Explosion Caused By Ignition Of Explosive


Mixture In The Rear Pass Of The Boiler Resulting
In Severe Damage To The Boiler

40

Case 17

Shortage Of Boiler Water Resulting In The Collapse


Of The Boiler Furnace

41

Case 18

A Fire Caused By Ignition Of Fuel Oil Dripping From


The Burner Nozzle Resulting In Serious Damage Of
The Electrical Cables And Fan Motor

42

Case 19

A Boiler Explosion Caused By The Shortage Of


Boiler Water Resulting In The Furnace Being
Severely Damaged

43

Case 20

Shortage Of Boiler Water Resulting In The Collapse


And Rupture Of The Boiler Furnace

45

Case 21

Explosion Of An Air Receiver Resulting In The


Death Of One Person And Injury Of Four Others

46

Case 22

Thermal Oil Leakage Scalded An Operator And


Caught Fire When it Sprayed Onto The Hot Surface

47

Case 23

A Furnace Blowback Accident Resulting In The


Injury Of Two Workers

50

Case 24

Bursting Of Blow-Down Tank Resulting In


The Injury Of A Competent Person

53

Case 25

An Accident Involving The Splash of Contents


Inside An Unregistered Autoclave

55

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

INTRODUCTION
This brief of boilers and pressure vessels accidents in Hong Kong sets in plain
terms to identify the possible causes of each accident and to make recommendations
for prevention of its recurrence. This brief revealed that loss of lives and damage to
properties could be the result of the safety procedures for operation and maintenance
of pressure equipment had been ignored. It may serve as a reminder to the equipment
owners and operators for avoiding the recurrence of similar accidents in boilers and
pressure vessels.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

Case 1
EXPLOSION OF A PRESSURE COOKER RESULTING
IN INJURY OF A BABY AND DAMAGE IN THE
STORE-ROOM

Summary
A pressure cooker installed on the mezzanine floor in a herbal tea house exploded in
1997. The explosion caused extensive damage to the store-room and the fallen broken
glass injured a baby girl in the waiting area. The pressure cooker was left unattended
on the stove under fire at the time of the accident. The safety valve of the pressure
cooker had been replaced with a stop valve. The excess pressure accumulated inside
the pressure cooker resulted in the explosion.

Circumstances
The owner used the pressure cooker to brew the herbal tea for commercial purpose.
He put the herbal medicine into the pressure cooker which was half full of water. He
then closed the lid, tightened the securing bolts, shut off the stop valve (which was
used to replace the original safety valve) and changed the firing rate to medium after
the content started boiling. He then left the pressure cooker unattended until the
explosion occurred.

Observation
1. The lid was found buckled and cracked. The lip seal rim of the lid was broken and
the handle on the lid was deformed.
2. The pressure gauge was damaged and the stop valve was found missing.
3. The bottom of the pressure cooker was cracked and six axle screws for the securing bolts
were fractured.
4. The pressure cooker was used to boil herbal tea for commercial purpose, therefore
it fell under the control of Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance. The pressure
cooker was classified as a special purpose boiler.
5. The working pressure was estimated to be over 450 kPa based on the results of
investigation.
6. The pressure cooker safety valve had been replaced with a common stop valve.
The relief valve was removed and plugged with bolt and nut. If the above safety
fittings had not been removed, the excessive steam pressure inside the pressure
cooker should have been released and explosion could be avoided.
7. The explosion caused extensive damage in the store-room above the shop and the
fallen broken glass slightly injured a baby girl in the waiting area.
8. The operating instructions were written in English only. The owner could not read
English and he operated the pressure cooker based on the verbal instructions
given by the pressure cooker salesman.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

Legal Implication
The owner of the special purpose boiler could be found in breach of the following
provisions of the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section l5 (A):
The owner of a new boiler shall, not later than 30 days preceding the day on which
he intends to put the same into use, apply to the Authority in the prescribed form
for registration of the same under this Ordinance.
2. Section 22 (1):
Every boiler and its auxiliary equipment shall be properly maintained.
3. Section 24 (1):
Upon completion of the installation of a new boiler and before the boiler is put
into use, the boiler and its auxiliary equipment shall be examined by an appointed
examiner (boiler inspector).
4. Section 49 (7):
No boiler shall be operated except under the direct supervision of a competent
person whose certificate of competency certifies that he is competent to operate
boilers of the class or type in question.

Recommendation
1.
2.
3.

Register any boiler and auxiliaries with the Boilers and Pressure Vessels
Authority and have a Certificate of Fitness issued by an Appointed Examiner.
Engage Competent Person(s) to operate the boiler and auxiliaries.
Do not tamper with the pressure parts of the boiler without the prior approval of
the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Authority.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

Photo 1.1

Photo 1.3

The hole for safety valve was punctured

Hole for relief valve was fitted with bolt and nut

Photo 1.5

Axle screw and securing bolt

Photo 1.2

Photo 1.4

Crack on the bottom

Broken lip seal rim of the lid

Photo 1.6

Sheared axle screw

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

Case 2
OVERLOADING OF ELECTRICAL WIRING
RESULTING IN A FIRE THAT DAMAGED THE
BOILER CONTROL PANEL COMPLETELY

Summary
In 1995 a fire caused by short-circuited or overloaded electrical wiring damaged the
boiler electrical control panel completely. The fire was put out by the competent
person and no casually was reported.

Circumstances
A fire broke out in a boiler control panel inside the boiler room of a clothing factory.
Three hours after the boiler attendant lighted off the fire-tube boiler, smoke was found
escaping from the boiler room. The boiler attendant found that the boiler control
panel was on fire. He immediately closed the boiler fuel oil supply valve and isolated
the electrical supply to the boiler electrical control panel. He then put out the fire with
a portable fire extinguisher.

Observation
1. The pressure switch was the initial source of the fire as concluded from the result
of investigation.
2. The mercury glass bulb of the pressure switch was shattered due to short-circuit
or overload and this caused the fire inside the electric control panel.

Legal Implication
The owner of a boiler could be found in breach of the following provision of the
Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 22 (1):
Every boiler and its auxiliary equipment shall be properly maintained.

Recommendation
1.
2.

Issue circulars to the owners and boiler operators warning them of the potential
fire hazard in the pressure controllers inside the control panels.
Issue circulars to the Appointed Examiners alerting them of the concerned areas.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

Photo 2.1

Burnt pressure switch

Photo 2.2

Damaged control panel

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

Case 3
THE EXPLOSION OF A CAULDRON DAMAGING THE
SURROUNDINGS EXTENSIVELY

Summary
An explosion of cauldron occurred in 1995 was due to the operational errors made by
improperly trained workers. The cauldron was designed by the owner himself. The
safety valve malfunctioned at the time of the accident.

Circumstances
The cauldron involved was used in the production of watercress honey. Upon adding
the requisite raw materials, the cauldron was heated by a LPG stove. After boiling the
mixture for about five hours, seeing that there was still no steam coming out of the
ball valve, the operator replaced the LPG stove with another one of greater capacity.
Shortly afterwards, the cauldron exploded with plenty of steam spurting out and
caused extensive damage to the premises. Fortunately, no one was injured.

Observation
After investigation, the pressure inside the cauldron prior to the explosion was
estimated to be 770 kPa above atmospheric pressure. The safety valve was found
malfunctioning. The explosion was due to improper operation and poor maintenance
of the safety valve. Since the cauldron can be hermetically sealed, steam would be
generated inside the cauldron on application of heat. The cauldron was equipped with
safety valve and pressure gauge and hence it was classified as a special purpose boiler.

Legal Implication
The owner of the cauldron (special purpose boiler) could be found in breach of the
following provisions of the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 15 (A):
The owner of a new boiler shall, not later than 30 days preceding the day on
which he intends to put the same into use, apply to the Authority in the prescribed
form for registration of the same under this Ordinance.
2. Section 24 (1):
Upon completion of the installation of a new boiler and before the boiler is put
into use, the boiler and its auxiliary equipment shall be examined by an
Appointed Examiner (Boiler Inspector).
3. Section 49 (7):
No boiler shall be operated except under the direct supervision of a Competent
Person whose certificate of competency certifies that he is competent to operate
boilers of the class or type in question.

Recommendation
1. Register any boiler and auxiliaries with the Boilers and Pressure Vessels
Authority and have a Certificate of Fitness issued by an Appointed Examiner.
2. Engage Competent Person(s) to operate the boiler and auxiliaries.
3. Every boiler should be properly maintained.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

Photo 3.1

Photo 3.3

Photo 3.5

Damaged strainer of the cauldron

Damaged lid with fittings

The cauldron lid was weighed to


establish the bursting pressure

Photo 3.2

Photo 3.4

Fracture securing bolts and bush holdings

Damaged lid with fittings removed

Photo 3.6

LPG stove

10

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

11

Case 4
A BOILER FIRE CAUSED BY A LEAKY FUEL OIL PIPE
RESULTING IN BURNT INJURY OF A BOILER
OPERATOR

Summary
The leakage of a diesel oil pipe caused a fire on the boiler in 1991. The leakage was
observed when the boiler fuel was switched from heavy oil to diesel oil as required by
the Environmental Protection Department. The fire was put out shortly after the
arrival of the Fire Services.

Circumstances
The boiler operator noticed that smoke came out from the boiler room and the boiler
was on fire; he stopped the fuel pump and shut off the fuel supply valve. Fire
Services Department was called upon to put out the fire. The damage to the boiler
was minimal.

Observation
1. Small leakage of fuel oil was observed since the boiler fuel was changed from
heavy oil to diesel oil.
2. The damage was minimal and was confined to the fuel burning gear and the
associated control panel.
3. The cause of fire could not be established. However, the fuel oil leakage might be
a contributing factor.

Legal Implication
The owner of boilers could be found in breach of the following provision of the
Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 22 (1):
Every boiler and pressure vessel and its auxiliary equipment shall be properly
maintained.

Recommendation
1.
2.

Maintain every boiler and its auxiliary equipment properly.


Any fuel oil leakage should be rectified immediately.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

Photo 4.1

Damaged burner gear

Photo 4.2

View of incident site

12

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

13

Case 5
A FIRE CAUSED BY BOILER FUEL SPLASHING ON THE
HOT SURFACE RESULTING IN BURNT INJURY OF A
BOILER OPERATOR

Summary
In 1991, a fuel return valve bonnet slipped off from the crossed-thread valve casing.
The diesel oil spilled on the boiler hot surface was ignited. The fire flashed over the
boiler operator's right forearm and right face resulting in minor burnt injury. The
damage to the boiler was minimal.

Circumstances
The fire was due to a failed valve in the fuel return line. Fuel oil was found leaking at
the jointing between the valve bonnet and the valve casing. The boiler operator tried
to tighten the bonnet to stop the leak. The bonnet slipped and jumped off from its
position exposing the valve casing internal to atmosphere. Fuel oil under pressure
splashed onto the hot surface and was ignited. The boiler operator left the boiler
room and closed the metal door behind. The diesel oil supply was shut off immediately.
The damage to the boiler was not serious but the boiler operator sustained minor burnt
injury.

Observation
The bonnet had been over-tightened to stop the fuel leakage stripping screw thread
between the valve bonnet and the valve casing without noticed by the boiler operator.
When the boiler operator further tightened the bonnet, it failed to engage to the valve
casing and was pushed out from the valve casing by the fuel oil under pressure.

Legal Implication
The owner of boilers could be found in breach of the following provision of the
Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 22 (1):
Every boiler and pressure vessel and its auxiliary equipment shall be properly
maintained.

Recommendation
1.
2.

Maintain every boiler and pressure vessel and its auxiliary equipment properly.
Replace any defective fuel valve immediately.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

Photo 5.1

Photo 5.3

Damage to boiler

Fuel return valve in position

Photo 5.2

Damage to boiler and fuel oil system

14

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

15

Case 6
STEAM AND HOT WATER RUSHED OUT FROM THE
CRACK-OPENED COVER OF STEAM KlER RESULTING
IN SERIOUS SCALD OF THE BOILER OPERATOR

Summary
In 1990, steam and hot water rushed out from the slackened cover of a steam kier
(steam receiver) and scalded the victim who died later in hospital. The deceased was
not properly trained and not being supervised by the Competent Person at the time of
accident.

Circumstances
The micro-processor for automatic operation control of the steam kier had been
removed for repair and the steam kier was left on manual operation. The worker
unlocked the kier cover after opening the exhaust valve at the end of the process. The
steam and hot water rushing out from the slackened cover scalded the victim and he
later died in hospital.

Observation
1.
2.
3.

4.
5.
6.

There were two Competent Persons holding the relevant certificates of


competency.
The victim working on the steam kier on his own at the time of accident did not
possess a certificate of competency.
The seal on the safety valve of the steam kier was missing. The temperature
interlock set-point on the dial thermometer was set to 7C above the maximum
temperature setting of 85C.
There was a very large amount of hot water left inside the steam kier at the end of
the run.
A properly set safety valve should blow at a pressure of 450 kPa but it did not
blow at a testing pressure of 700 kPa after the accident.
The temperature indicated on the defective dial thermometer was 12C lower than
the actual measuring temperature.

Legal Implication
The owner of steam receivers (steam kiers) could be found in breach of the following
provisions of the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 4 (1)( a):
There shall be a suitable reducing valve or other suitable automatic appliance to
prevent the maximum permissible working pressure of the steam receiver being
exceeded.
2. Section 22 (1):
Every boiler and pressure vessel and its auxiliary equipment shall be properly
maintained.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

16

3. Section 49 (7):
No steam receiver shall be operated except under the direct supervision of a
Competent Person whose certificate of competency certifies that he is competent
to operate the type of steam receiver in question.

Recommendation
1.
2.
3.

Employ sufficient Competent Person(s) to operate the steam receivers (steam


kiers).
Provide training and assistance to the employees to obtain the relevant certificates
of competency.
Maintain every steam kier and its auxiliary equipment properly.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

Photo 6.1

Photo 6.4

Photo 6.6

Kier cover is being


unlocked

Photo 6.2

Seal for safety valve was missing

Manual overflow valve

Photo 6.7

Interlock exhaust valve


in its closed position

Photo 6.5

Control panel with dial


thermometer (set point
of 92C)

Photo 6.3

17

The kier in open position

Pneumatic overflow valve at the kier cover

Photo 6.8

Pneumatic actuator for


lifting the kier cover

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

18

Case 7
FATAL ACCIDENT CAUSED BY THE BURST OPENING
OF A STEAM MANIFOLD END PLATE

Summary
The end plate of a steam manifold burst open in 1990 and caused serious head injury
to a worker who died later in hospital. The defective steam manifold and the boilers
which supplied steam had not been examined by any Appointed Examiner (Boiler
Inspector).

Circumstances
Two vertical automatic water-tube boi1ers supplied steam to five washing machines
through a steam manifold. The end plate which weighed 4.5kg was blown out and
hit a workers head. The end plate continued to slide on the floor seven metres away
due to its inertia. The worker was sent to hospital and died later.

Observation
1.
2.

3.
4.

5.

The preparation of the welding edge and welding workmanship of the steam
manifold end plate were poor.
Incomplete root penetration in the welding joint of the steam manifold end plate
was found. This welding defect together with the improper operation of the steam
plant and auxiliaries might have resulted in the failure of the joint in the manifold.
Water hammer might damage the end plate if the steam manifold was not
properly drained.
The manifold was mounted two metres above ground in the workplace.
The boilers had not been registered with the Boilers and Pressure Vessels
Authority and therefore none of the boilers, auxiliaries and piping were examined
and tested by any Appointed Examiner to verify that they are safe to be operated
at the working pressure.
The boilers were being operated without the direct supervision of Competent
Person(s) and without valid Certificates of Fitness.

Legal Implication
The owner of boilers and steam receivers could be found in breach of the following
provisions of the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 15A :
The owner of a new boiler shall not later than 30 days preceding the day on
which he intended to put the same into use, apply to the Authority in the prescribed
form for registration of the same under the Boilers and Pressure Vessels
Ordinance (Cap. 56).
2. Section 24 (1):
Upon completion of the installation of a new boiler and before the same is put
into use, the boiler and its auxiliary equipment shall be examined by an appointed
examiner.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

19

3. Section 41:
Where a new boiler is being examined for the purposes of Section 24 (1), every
pipe that will convey oils, steam or water under pressure to or from the boiler, as
the case may be, shall be subjected by a Boiler Inspector to a hydraulic test.
4. Section 49 (1):
No boiler or steam receiver shall be used or operated unless the boiler and its
auxiliary equipment has been examined in accordance with this Ordinance and a
certificate of fitness has been issued in respect thereof after that examination.
5. Section 49 (7):
No boiler or steam receiver shall be operated except under the direct supervision
of a competent person whose certificate of competency certifies that he is
competent to operate all classes or types of boiler and steam receiver or that he is
competent to operate boilers or steam receivers of the class or type in question.
6. Section 22 (1):
Every boiler and pressure vessel and its auxiliary equipment shall be properly
maintained.

Recommendation
1.
2.
3.

Register any boiler and auxiliaries with the Boilers and Pressure Vessels
Authority and have a Certificate of Fitness issued by an Appointed Examiner.
Engage Competent Person(s) to operate the boiler and auxiliaries
Maintain every boiler and pressure vessel and its auxiliary equipment properly.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

Photo 7.1

Photo 7.3

Photo 7.5

Blood stain of the victim at


No.3 washing machine

Close-up view to show the failed edge


of the steam manifold

Weld on the other side of the steam manifold

Photo 7.2

Photo 7.4

20

End View of the steam manifold

Detached end plate of the steam manifold

Photo 7.6

End view of the end plate on the


other side of the steam manifold

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

21

Case 8
A WORKER BEING SCALDED BY STEAM FROM THE
BURST STEAM MANIFOLD

Summary
A large volume of steam burst into a boiler room due to the failure of an end plate
cover of a steam manifold and slightly scalded the face of a worker in 1990.

Circumstances
The Competent Person ran into the boiler room to shut off all the fuel valves when he
had heard a big noise coming out from the boiler room. The end plate of a steam
manifold failed and released a large volume of steam into the boiler room. He
switched on the boiler room exhaust fan to extract the steam trapped inside the boiler
room. A workers face was slightly scalded by the steam when he opened the boiler
room door.

Observation
1. No apparent damage was observed on two boilers.
2. The welding of the end plate to the manifold was of poor quality. The failed edge
revealed welding defect of lack of root penetration.
3. When the steam manifold is subjected to steam pressure, the end plate of the
manifold is being bulged outward slightly and very high stress is induced at the
root of the welds. The failed steam manifold which was part of the auxiliary
equipment of the boiler was not built to the required design standards.
4. The steam manifold had not been subjected to a hydraulic test and examined by
the boiler inspector before it was put into use.

Legal Implication
The owner of boilers could be found in breach of the following provision of the Boilers
and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 41:
Where a new boiler or steam receiver is being examined for the purposes of
Section 24 (1) or a new steam container is being examined for the purposes of
Section 28 (2), every pipe that will convey oils, steam or water under pressure to or
from the boiler, steam receiver or steam container, as the case may be, shall be
subjected by a boiler inspector to a hydraulic test.

Recommendation
1.

Engage a Boiler Inspector to examine the piping system (an auxiliary equipment)
at the time the boilers are being examined.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

Photo 8.1

Photo 8.3

Steam Manifold

View of the edge of the steam manifold


from bottom

Photo 8.2

Photo 8.4

22

End View of the steam manifold

View of the edge of the steam manifold


viewing from top

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

23

Case 9
IMPROPER OPERATION OF A STEAM KlER
RESULTING IN CASUALTY

Summary
The steam receiver was in use when the accident occurred in 1989. During the
rinsing process the worker opened the drain and vent valve and at the same time he
opened the fresh water inlet valve to fill up the kier. The fresh water under pressure
gradually filled up the kier and mixed with steam inside the steam receiver. Steam and
hot water forced out from the partially tightened cover seriously scalded the worker
who later died in hospital.

Circumstances
The operator failed to observe the usual safe working practice in steam kier operation.
The receiver cover was partially locked by two locking bolts. Admission of fresh
water with incorrect procedure during the rinsing process resulted in hot fluid being
forced out from the partially tightened lid. The worker was seriously scalded by the
hot fluid spilled over him.

Observation
1. The training provided to the operators of the steam kiers was not sufficient.
2. There was no Competent Person directly supervising the operation of steam kiers.
The kier operation was practically in the hands of uncertified operators who
possessed little knowledge and awareness of the operational safety and
precautions.

Legal Implication
The owner of boilers and steam receivers could be found in breach of the following
provision of the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 49 (7):
No steam receiver shall be operated except under the direct supervision of a
competent person whose certificate of competency certifies that he is competent
to operate steam receivers of the class or type in question.

Recommendation
1. Steam kiers should be properly maintained at all times, all safety devices should
be fitted and regularly tested to ensure they are functioning properly.
2. Steam kiers should be operated under the direct supervision of competent
persons of steam receivers.
3. Owners should provide adequate training to the operators for the safe operation
of steam kiers.
4. Proper operating procedures and safety precautions should be conspicuously
displayed and readily available in the vicinity of the steam kiers.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

Photo 9.1

Photo 9.2

Outlook and piping of the steam kier

Reconstruction of accident on water spray pattern

24

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

25

Case 10
UNAUTHORIZED REPAIR ON BOILER PRESSURE
PARTS MAKING IT UNSAFE FOR OPERATION

Summary
An incident of serious tube failure in a water-tube boiler was reported in 1989. The
water-tube boiler was not being properly maintained and numerous unauthorized
repairs had been carried out on the boiler pressure parts. Serious tube leaking
was the final result and the boiler was unsafe to be further operated. There was no
casualty or injury to workers.

Circumstances
Steam generated from the water-tube boilers was used for drying out the re-enforced
concrete. Water was observed leaking from the right side of boiler. Immediate shut
down and isolation of the hot boiler were not carried out subsequent to the serious
boiler water leakage. The Competent Person went to increase the feed water flow and
when he returned, the steam pressure had dropped to 500 kPa from 1,250 kPa. Then
the boiler stopped automatically. He then selected the manual control for low firing
and restarted the boiler. The boiler was left at low firing rate for ten minutes and the
steam pressure could not be raised. Later on, he stopped the boiler and reported the
case to the factory manager.

Observation
1. External and internal inspections were carried out after removal of the burner unit
and the drum doors. Tube expansion ends to steam/water drums were found
leaking at numerous locations.
2. One furnace roof tube was found burst with an opening of 60mm x 15mm.
3. Numerous unauthorized and poor repairs were evident in roof tube sections and
membrane-wall sections.
4. Scales and slag were found flaking from the tube surfaces inside furnace.
5. Water drum internal was found covered with large amount of loose scales.
6. There were six pieces of defective tube section cutouts lying on open ground and
these were evidence that the boiler had been repaired at numerous locations in the
past.
7. The repairs on pressure parts were carried out by the Owners contractor without
any examination being carried out by the Appointed examiner after the repair.
Such malpractice in repairing pressure parts of a boiler by owner was considered
unsafe and unacceptable.
8. The boiler attendant failed to shut down and isolate the affected boiler, which had
tube failure.
9. The boiler was considered unsafe for further operation.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

26

Legal Implication
The owner of boilers could be found in breach of the following provisions of the
Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 22 (1):
Every boiler and pressure vessel and its auxiliary equipment shall be properly
maintained.
2. Section 26 (1):
Every boiler in respect of which extensive repairs have been carried out shall,
together with its auxiliary equipment be examined by an appointed examiner
before it is put into use again.

Recommendation
1. Repair on boiler pressure parts should be authorized and examined by the boiler
inspector. The Boilers and Pressure Vessels Authority should be informed
accordingly.
2. Safe working practice in the operation of a water tube boiler should be observed
by the competent person.
3. Maintain every boiler and pressure vessel and its auxiliary equipment properly.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

27

Case 11
EXPLOSION OF THE STEAM KIER RESULTING IN
SERIOUS DAMAGE TO THE PREMISES AND A
FATALITY

Summary
A scouring kier in a textile bleaching and dyeing factory exploded in 1988. The blast
tore off the metal cover and smashed half of the plastic-roof shelter. The debris and
cloths were scattered over a radius of fifty metres. The fire brigade found the
deceased lying unconscious inside the kier. He was certified dead on arrival to
hospital.

Circumstances
1. Scouring is a process to remove the impurities and dirt of the cloth before
bleaching and dyeing. The cloth was being boiled in an alkaline solution under a
pressure of 130 to 170 kPa for several hours. The scouring kier was 3.6 metres
high with an opening of 1.37 metres on the top. Three scouring kiers were installed
inside the covered rear yard. The locking arrangement of the kiers had been
modified to seven hinged locking bolts.
2. Direct heating steam was used to raise the temperature and pressure inside the kier
because the valve for indirect heating steam had been out of order for a few
months. The amount of direct heating steam injected into the kier had to be
adjusted five to six times over this six-hour process.
3. No other workers had ever seen the deceased since he took over the shift at 11 p.m.
A loud explosive noise was heard by the boiler operator at about 4:30 a.m. He
saw the pressure in the boilers was around 800 kPa. When noticing a large
amount of steam vapour clustered over the kier platform, he immediately shut off
the boiler and the main steam supply valve. The explosion was later confirmed to
be the bursting of kier No.1. The top opening of the kier was exposed as the metal
cover had been blown off twenty metres away. The firemen sprayed water to cool
down the kier and the deceaseds body was later found inside the kier. The
deceased might have accidentally fallen into the kier through the top opening.

Observation
1.

2.
3.

Three of the seven bayonet lugs of the cover and the lifting spindle were bent.
Five cover locking bolts were sheared off in their cross-pins. The loading gear of
the kier was torn away from the vertical pedestal column and thrown to the public
car-park. The indirect heating steam piping and the seized valve were blown off
and landed on a storage shed fifteen metres away.
Unauthorised modification was made to the kier cover.
No pressure reducing valve was installed in the steam supply line from the boiler
to the steam kiers. The maximum permissible working pressure of the boiler is
820 kPa.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

28

4. The failure of the indirect steam heating valve necessitated using the direct steam
heating for maintaining both pressure and temperature in the process. Had the
indirect steam heating valve been repaired and used, the steam pressure inside the
kier could be greatly reduced.
5. No log book and operating instructions were available.

Legal Implication
The owner of boilers could be found in breach of the following provisions of the
Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 22 (1):
Every boiler and pressure vessel and its auxiliary equipment shall be properly
maintained.
2. Section 49 (7):
No boiler or steam receiver shall be operated except under the direct supervision
of a competent person whose certificate of competency certifies that he is
competent to operate all classes or types of boiler and steam receiver or that he is
competent to operate boilers or steam receivers of the class or type in question.
3. Regulation 4 (1):
Every steam receiver that is not so constructed and maintained as to withstand
with safety the maximum permissible working pressure of the boiler to which it is
connected or the maximum pressure that can be obtained in the pipe connecting
the steam receiver with any other source of supply of steam shall be fitted with
(a)
a suitable reducing valve or other suitable automatic appliance to prevent
the maximum permissible working pressure of the steam receiver being
exceeded;
(b)
a suitable spring-loaded valve that is capable of being sealed and is so
adjusted as to permit the steam to escape as soon as the maximum
permissible working pressure of the steam receiver is exceeded or
suitable appliance for cutting off automatically the supply of steam as
soon as that pressure is exceeded.

Recommendation
1.
2.
3.

4.
5.

Do not tamper with the pressure parts of the boiler without the prior approval of
the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Authority.
Engage Competent Person(s) to operate the steam receivers (steam kiers).
Suitable pressure reducing valve should be provided to prevent the maximum
permissible working pressure of the kier and its auxiliary equipment being
exceeded.
Safe operation procedures should be provided to the operators to ensure the steam
kiers are being operated correctly and safely.
An effective logging or record-keeping system should be introduced for the
operators on shift duties to avoid misunderstanding in verbal communication
between shift workers.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

29

Photo 11.1

The metal cover, lifting gear and the


mechanical piler

Photo 11.2

Close-up of the interior of the steam kier

Photo 11.3

The bent cover lugs of the kier cover

Photo 11.4

The bent lifting spindle of the kier cover

Photo 11.5

5 of the 7 cover locking bolts were


sheared away

Photo 11.6

Full-width crack on flat base of the cast-iron


pedestal column

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

30

Case 12
STEAM BLOWN OFF FROM THE STEAM PIPE TO THE
STEAM IRON RESULTING IN MINOR SCALD INJURY
OF A WORKER

Summary
In 1988 an incident occurred to an electrically heated steam boiler in which steam
blown off at the end of the flexible steam pipe connecting to the steam iron scalded
the right hand of the worker who was carrying out ironing at the time of the incident.

Circumstances
1.
2.
3.

The damaged steam pipe was scrapped after the accident and no material
evidence was available.
The material of the steam pipe was fatigued and this probably caused the
accident.
The worker was sent to hospital for minor medical treatment.

Observation
1.

2.

The safety valves did not lift at the maximum permissible working pressure of
the electric boilers. They lifted at 30% in excess of the maximum permissible
working pressure.
The seals of the safety valves were intact.

Legal Implication
The owner of boilers could be found in breach of the following provision of the
Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 22 (1):
Every boiler and pressure vessel and its auxiliary equipment shall be properly
maintained.
The Appointed Examiner could be found in breach of the following provision of the
Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 45:
Whenever, for the purposes of this Ordinance, an Appointed Examiner is
carrying out an examination of a boiler, steam receiver or air receiver under
pressure that will be specified in the certificate of fitness as its maximum
permissible working pressure, he shall, by sealing or some other suitable methods,
ensure that the safety valve is so adjusted as to prevent the boiler, steam receiver
or air receiver, as the case may be, from being operated at a pressure greater than
that pressure.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

31

Recommendation
1.

2.
3.

The Appointed Examiner should ensure the boilers and auxiliaries are in
compliance with the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance during his
examination of boilers.
The Appointed Examiner should ensure the correct setting of the safety valve for
the purpose of issuing the Certificate of Fitness.
Every boiler and pressure vessel and its auxiliary equipment should be properly
maintained.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

32

Case 13
HOT FLUID DISCHARGED FROM A STEAM KIER
RESULTING IN SERIOUS INJURY OF A TECHNICIAN
AND THE DEATH OF THE SUPERVISOR

Summary
In 1988 a fatal accident occurred in a factory. Modifications had been carried out on
the kier with improper welding method to increase its loading capacity and hence
affected the integrity and safety in operation of this kier. The failure of the
mechanical interlocking device enabled the cover being left in partially open position
and thus the cover could be opened under pressure. The supervisor and the technician
failed to observe the safety working procedure by opening the cover whilst the kier
was still under pressure. The technician was seriously scalded and the supervisor died
later in the hospital.

Circumstances
The kier was programmed to lower fluid temperature from 100C to 85C with the
pressure in the kier to be 400 kPa just after the main bleach process. The boiler
operator noticed that the kier had cooling and discharging problems and he informed
his supervisor. The supervisor brought along a technician to diagnose the fault but
they could not identify the cause. Wrongly assuming that the overflow valve interlock
had been opened and the fluid level inside the vessel had been lowered, they turned
the hand wheel to crack open the cover of the kier. After a "clicking" noise was heard
the cover sprang opened with a loud "bang". The supervisor escaped from the room
covering with blood on his body, followed by the technician.

Observation
1.

The lid of the kier cover was distorted and could not be completely closed onto its
seat.
2. Scraping marks were found on the tapered sections of the lugs and gripping pins.
3. Cracks were found in way of the cover-operating actuator seating bracket.
4. Steam and hot water splashed in all directions and caused electrical faults in all
electrical fittings in the vicinity.
5. The seal for the safety valve was found missing.
6. The mechanical safety interlocking plate was found too short to achieve its
interlocking function.
7. All tack welds applied on each side of the gear plate attachment and on the
securing bolts were cracked.
8. The water level control switches were not secured properly.
9. Two of the four cover positioning plates were found missing.
10. The failure of the mechanical interlocking device enabled the cover being left in
partially open position and thus the cover could be opened under pressure.
11. The lack of water level indicator and the malfunctioned thermostat switch
reduced the operational safety of the kier.
12. Modifications had been carried out on the kier to increase its loading capacity.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

33

13. Quality of welds on the steam kier was poor and simple electrical arc welding
was used by owners workers on the stainless steel steam kier instead of the
proper inert gas shield welding.
14. The workers failed to observe the safety working procedure in opening the cover
whilst the kier was still under pressure.

Legal Implication
The owner of boilers and steam receivers could be found in breach of the following
provision of the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 22 (1):
Every boiler and pressure vessel and its auxiliary equipment shall be properly
maintained.

Recommendation
1.
2.
3.
4.

Any servicing on the boiler and its auxiliary equipment must be carried out by
qualified personnel with good experience and professionalism.
Competent Person should be reminded to adhere to the safe working and
operation procedures.
Engage adequate Competent Persons to operate the steam kiers.
Maintain every boiler and pressure vessel and its auxiliary equipment properly.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

Photo 13.1 The kier (steam receiver)

Photo 13.3 Control panel for the kier

Photo 13.5

Locking pad is too short for locking

Photo 13.2

34

Bottom of the kier

Photo 13.4 Overflow valve with interlocking device

Photo 13.6

Broken level indicator, broken guide-pin


and its bracket

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

35

Case 14
FIRE CAUSED BY THE RESIDUAL OIL BEING
IGNITED BY SPARKS RESULTING IN DAMAGE TO
THE BOILER FRONT AND BURNER

Summary
A fire broke out at the front end of a boiler in 1988. Flame and sparks were blown
out from the lower part of the flanged joint where the fuel oil burning installation was
mounted and ignited the residual fuel oil in the tray placed under the fuel burning
installation. The fire was put out by the Fire Brigade.

Circumstances
The boiler was put on the automatic mode of control when the residual oil caught fire.
When a worker was about to shut down the boiler after the shift, he saw flame and
sparks being blown out from the lower part of the flanged joint between the front and
of the boiler casing and the fuel burning installation. The flame ignited the residual
fuel oil in the tray placed under the fuel burning installation. The flame was due to
the ignition of fuel oil in the air trunk. The fuel oil appeared to have leaked from the
defective joints of the fuel pipe to burner.
The boiler attendant tried to put out the fire but failed. The Fire Services Department
was called upon to put out the fire.

Observation
1.

2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.

The flame and sparks blown out from the flanged joint between the front end of
the boiler casing and the fuel burning installation ignited the fuel in the tray
placed under the fuel burning installation.
At the time of the accident, the boiler was not under the direct supervision of the
boiler attendant.
The fire was only restricted to the local area around the fuel burning installation.
Fuel was seen inside the air trunk and on the air swirler.
No insulation or lagging was seen on most of the steam piping and steam valves.
The fuel oil piping around the boiler was very dirty.
Pressure gauge glass face plate was covered with soot.
The boiler room was very dirty and oily indicating housekeeping was poor.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

36

Legal Implication
The owner of boilers could be found in breach of the following provisions of the
Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 22 (1):
Every boiler and pressure vessel and its auxiliary equipment shall be properly
maintained.
2. Section 49 (7):
No boiler or steam receiver shall be operated except under the direct supervision
of a competent person whose certificate of competency certifies that he is
competent to operate all classes or types of boiler and steam receiver or that he is
competent to operate boilers or steam receivers of the class or type in question.

Recommendation
1.
2.
3.
4.

The boiler should be maintained properly and the air trunk, air swirler and
burning installation should be kept clean and serviced regularly.
Soot and ash should be removed and boiler room should be kept in clean
condition.
Oil tray is designed to catch any leaked oil. Any oil leakage should be rectified
and oil tray should be cleaned frequently.
The boiler under steaming should not be left unattended.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

37

Case 15
A BOILER EXPLOSION DUE TO IGNITION OF
UNBURNT LPG RESULTING IN THE INJURY OF
A BOILER ATTENDANT

Summary
In 1988 the furnace explosion occurred in a fire-tube boiler due to the accumulated
LPG being ignited inside the furnace. The blast blew out the rear end cover, which
injured the boiler attendant and hit on the oil burning unit of another steaming boiler.
A warning letter was issued to the Competent Person for his failure to operate the
boiler in accordance with safe operating procedures and thus create a hazardous
situation.

Circumstances
Prior to explosion, the ignition and control systems were always malfunctioning. The
boiler was therefore shut down for 45 days and the contractor was engaged to carry
out repair of the ignition system. The boiler exploded due to the accumulation of
LPG in the furnace, and the explosion blew out the rear end cover. The boiler
attendant was injured and plant equipment was also damaged. The oil burning unit of
the steaming boiler was slightly distorted and sagged. The end cover of the forced
draught fan was broken. The fuel oil pipe union was fractured and a large quantity of
fuel oil spread over the floor.

Observation
1.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) was used during start up of the boiler and heavy
grade fuel oil was used for normal steaming.
2. The removal of the pressure reducing valve from the LPG supply line resulted in
excessive amount of LPG being injected into the furnace during the testing of
ignition.
3. The pilot burner was turned on but failed to ignite during the six successive
manual and automatic tests.
4. Excessive amount of LPG accumulated in the furnace as a result of the
unsuccessful trials of the ignition system.
5. Forced draught fan was left on but the air damper was closed and hence the
furnace had not been purged.
6. The concentrated LPG and air mixture was being finally ignited. Fresh air was
introduced into the furnace with the forced draught fan put on.
7. The LPG and air mixture was diluted to within the explosion limit and an
explosion took place in the furnace.
8. The main cause of the explosion in the furnace was owing to the furnace not being
purged thoroughly before every attempt of ignition.
9. The operator did not adhere to the safe working and operation procedures.
10. No damage or deformation on the furnace, pressure parts and structure of the
boiler was found.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

38

11. The oil burning installation was slightly distorted and sagged.
12. The furnace and smoke tubes were covered by a layer of carbon soot and scale.

Legal Implication
The owner of boilers could be found in breach of the following provision of the Boilers
and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 22 (1):
Every boiler and pressure vessel and its auxiliary equipment shall be properly
maintained.

Recommendation
1. Servicing on the boiler and its auxiliary equipment must be carried out by
qualified personnel with the relevant knowledge and experience of boiler
operation.
2. Competent Person should be reminded to adhere to the safe working and operation
procedures. Purge furnace thoroughly before every attempt of ignition.
3. Pressure reducing valve should not be removed from the LPG supply line.
4. The boiler and its auxiliaries should be properly maintained. Soot and other
deposits should be removed from the furnace and the smoke tubes regularly
during boiler inspection.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

Photo 15.1

Blood stain of the injured worker

Photo 15.3

End view of the boiler showing


one of the broken lugs

Photo 15.5

End cover of boiler and the damaged


burning equipment

Photo 15.2

Photo 15.4

Photo 15.6

Rear end view of boiler

Blown off rear end cover


with collapsed refractory

The damaged burning equipment

39

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

40

Case 16
BOILER EXPLOSION CAUSED BY IGNITION OF
EXPLOSIVE MIXTURE IN THE REAR PASS OF THE
BOILER RESULTING IN SEVERE DAMAGE TO THE
BOILER

Summary
The fuel injected into the furnace through defective burners while testing the fuel
control solenoid valve. This vaporised fuel was carried over to the rear pass of the
boiler by the supplied air. The explosive mixture ignited and caused explosion and
severe damage to the boiler in 1985.

Circumstances
Upon completion of the tests, the boiler was lighted off. Immediately following the
firing of No.1 Bank burners, the flame condition was checked and hand signal was
given to the boiler operator. The air draught was increased and explosion took place
shortly afterwards.

Observation
1.

2.

3.
4.
5.
6.

The fuel admission into the boiler resulted from testing of solenoid valve and
failure of burners was carried over to the rear pass of the boiler by the air. The
fuel vapour and the air formed an explosive mixture and caused the explosion.
The supporting frame of the boiler was bent and the air trunks were torn open.
The economizer and primary superheater had bulged. The boiler casing had
shifted 7.6 cm to the rear of the boiler. The combustion side walls had bulged by
2 cm at mid height. Four short economizer tubes were fractured at the welded
attachments.
Because of the misinterpretation of hand signal, the airflow was increased instead
of shutting down the boiler.
The control system was over 20 years old and manual mode operation was used
during the flashing up of boiler.
There was no flame monitoring device and hence constant surveillance was
required.
Manning and supervision of boiler operation were not adequate and safety
standards were not implemented. The management should be responsible for
providing the necessary information, instruction, training and supervision to
ensure safe operation.

Recommendation
1. Plans for adequate manning, proper instruction and supervision procedure should
be developed and implemented for safe operation of boilers.
2. Effective communication and co-ordination required for safe operation of boilers
should be included in the instructions to operators.
3. Flame monitoring system should be installed for reliable indication of the flame
condition of each burner.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

41

Case 17
SHORTAGE OF WATER IN A BOILER RESULTING
IN THE COLLAPSE OF THE BOILER FURNACE

Summary
A boiler accident happened in a hotel in 1985. The furnace collapsed was due to the
shortage of water in the boiler because of the malfunction of the feed water control
unit.

Circumstances
The boiler water level controller malfunctioned because of the choked drain of water
column. The furnace collapsed due to shortage of water in the boiler. The competent
persons on duty failed to test the water gauge glass to ascertain the water level in the
boiler and relied solely on the safety devices and alarms.

Observation
1.
2.
3.
4.

The competent person on duty did not carry out the test of the water gauge glass
and the feed control unit.
The furnace collapsed due to the shortage of water in the boiler.
The sound of the audible alarm was very low and could not be heard even at a
short distance away.
The two main steam stop valves were leaking.

Legal Implication
The owner of boilers could be found in breach of the following provision of the Boilers
and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 22 (1):
Every boiler and pressure vessel and its auxiliary equipment shall be properly
maintained.

Recommendation
1. The boiler operators should regularly check on the water level in the boiler and
avoid relying solely on other safety devices.
2. The boiler operators on duty should test the boiler control equipment whenever
taking over their watches.
3. The equipment owner should maintain every boiler and pressure vessel and its
auxiliary equipment properly.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

42

Case 18
A FIRE CAUSED BY IGNITION OF FUEL OIL DRIPPING
FROM THE BURNER NOZZLE RESULTING IN SERIOUS
DAMAGE OF THE ELECTRICAL CABLES AND FAN
MOTOR

Summary
Fuel oil dripped from the burner nozzle accumulated on the fan motor and on the floor
caused a fire outbreak in 1984. Fan motor and electrical cables were severely
damaged.

Circumstances
The night supervisor noticed that a fire had broken out at the under side of the forced
draft fan. The power supply was cut off immediately. The worn fan motor bearing
was overheated and the hot bearing ignited the oil residue. The fire spread over the
boiler front. No Competent Person was employed in the night shift. The blower fan
motor bearing was completely shattered and the shaft was severely damaged in this
fire. All electrical cables had to be renewed.

Observation
1. The water level gauge glass was fouled internally and externally.
2. The relief valve of the fuel oil pump was found defective.
3. The door of the electrical switch gear box could not be closed because of the
clumsy and poorly wired cables in the box.
4. The boiler feed pump was leaking at the gland and the boiler was not properly
maintained.
5. The leak developed shortly after the Appointed Examiner had set the relief valve.

Legal Implication
The owner of boilers could be found in breach of the following provisions of the
Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 22 (1):
Every boiler and pressure vessel and its auxiliary equipment shall be properly
maintained.
2. Section 49 (7):
No boiler or steam receiver shall be operated except under the direct supervision
of a competent person whose certificate of competency certifies that he is
competent to operate all classes or types of boiler and steam receiver or that he is
competent to operate boilers or steam receivers of the class or type in question.

Recommendation
1. Boilers should not be operated without the direct supervision of the Competent
Person.
2. The boiler and its auxiliary equipment should be properly maintained.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

43

Case 19
A BOILER EXPLOSION CAUSED BY THE SHORTAGE
OF BOILER WATER RESULTING IN THE FURNACE
BEING SEVERELY DAMAGED

Summary
A boiler explosion happened in 1976 was the result of severe shortage of boiler
water. The tubes were overheated and the red-hot furnace bulged in.

Circumstances
The failure of the boiler safety devices resulted in the boiler being operated with
severe shortage of boiler water. The tubes and furnace top were overheated to red-hot.
The furnace bulged in and finally ruptured under the steam pressure.

Observation
1. The explosion was caused by severe shortage of boiler water. Most of the heating
surface was not covered with water and overheated to red-hot temperature.
2. The furnace bulged in and finally ruptured.
3. The failure of feed water controller and low water alarm and trip were the main
causes to initiate such explosion. The lever and link rod of the float for the low
water level alarm were seized up. Scale deposited in the float chamber, steam
and water pipes making the level controller and low water cutoff device failed to
protect the boiler.
4. The safety devices were not tested by the boiler inspector during the statutory
examination of the boiler.

Legal Implication
The owner of boilers could be found in breach of the following provision of the Boilers
and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 22(1):
Every boiler and pressure vessel and its auxiliary equipment shall be properly
maintained.

Recommendation
1. The Boiler Inspector should test all alarms and safety protection devices at the
time of final inspection after the steam is raised.
2. The boiler operator should test alarms and safety devices regularly and properly
maintain the control equipment.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

Photo 19.1

Damage to boiler furnace

Photo 19.3 and Photo 19.4

Photo 19.2

White deposits were lodged on the


water level gauge glass

Furnace bulged in (view from both ends)

44

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

45

Case 20
SHORTAGE OF BOILER WATER RESULTING IN THE
COLLAPSE AND RUPTURE OF THE BOILER FURNACE

Summary
The boiler explosion occurred in 1976 in a hotel. The furnace collapsed and
ruptured due to the malfunction of the feed water control unit which was caused by
the shortage of water in the boiler.

Circumstances
The boiler explosion and collapse of furnace was the result of shortage of boiler water.
The failure of the automatic water level control was because of lack of proper boiler
maintenance.

Observation
1. The boiler was inspected a few days preceding the incident by an Appointed
Examiner. However, the control equipment was not examined nor tested after the
steam was raised.
2. The competent person on duty did not carry out the test of the water gauge glass
and the feed water control unit. He was relying too heavily on the automatic
control device.
3. Because of the shortage of water in the boiler the furnace collapsed and ruptured.

Legal Implication
The owner of boilers could be found in breach of the following provision of the Boiler
and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 22(1):
Every boiler and pressure vessel and its auxiliary equipment shall be properly
maintained.

Recommendation
1. Boiler operators should regularly check on the water level in the boiler and avoid
relying solely on the safety devices.
2. Boiler operators on duty should test the boiler control equipment in their watches.
3. Equipment Owner should maintain every boiler and pressure vessel and its
auxiliary equipment properly.
4. Boiler Inspectors should thoroughly examine the safety devices and equipment at
each statutory examination of boiler. The alarms, equipment and devices must be
tested after the steam is raised.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

46

Case 21
EXPLOSION OF AN AIR RECEIVER RESULTING IN THE
DEATH OF ONE PERSON AND INJURY OF FOUR OTHERS

Summary
The worker was not aware of the danger of mixing oxygen and compressed air with
oil which formed a highly explosive mixture. This mixture was ignited by hot gases
resulting in an explosion that killed one person and injured four others in 1971.

Circumstances
An air receiver was used to start the diesel engine servicing a mobile crane. The
diesel engine failed to start after repair. A cylinder containing oxygen at 1.4 MPa was
connected in the system to start the engine. The oil accumulated in the system from
the air compressor plant mixed with the oxygen and formed a dangerous mixture.
The mixture was ignited by the hot gases leaking through the starting air valve and
caused the explosion. The force of explosion ripped open the air receiver at the
longitudinal seam, blew off the dished end plate to 150 metres away and tore away
the air receiver from its seat. Immediately after the explosion, fire engulfed
everything combustible in the vicinity.

Observation
1. A routine maintenance of the air compressor plant had been neglected with the
result that lubricating accumulated in the system.
2. The worker, being ignorant of the effect of oil on pure oxygen, connected the
oxygen supply at 1.4 MPa to the starting air system.
3. The relief valve fitted in the air receiver could not relieve the rapid build-up of
pressure due to explosion.
4. The force of explosion was extremely large that tore down the air receiver into
pieces and set everything in the vicinity on fire.

Legal Implication
The owner of boilers could be found in breach of the following provision of the Boilers
and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 22 (1 ):
Every pressure vessel and its auxiliary equipment shall be properly maintained.

Recommendation
1. Air receiver must not be charged with gas other than air. The use of oxygen is
particularly dangerous.
2. The oil and water should be removed from the air system through the regular and
effective draining of the air receiver.
3. Regular examination and maintenance of the compressor and its auxiliary
equipment are necessary.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

47

Case 22
THERMAL OIL LEAKAGE SCALDED AN OPERATOR
AND CAUGHT FIRE WHEN IT SPRAYED ONTO THE
HOT SURFACE

Summary
In 1994 leakage of the thermal oil from the pressure gauge connection at the discharge
side of the thermal oil circulation pump sprayed onto the hot surface and caught fire.
The operator was scalded by the hot thermal oil as he attempted to shut off the
isolating valve for the pressure gauge but failed. Fire Brigade was called upon to put
out the fire.

Circumstances
The thermal oil heater was inspected and registered twenty-three days before the
accident. The safety valve that was supplied by the Appointed Examiners company
was found leaking shortly after a major repair. The operator was asked to adjust the
spring tension on the safety valve to stop the leak but he refused to do so. The safety
valve was then removed and the thermal oil heater was put back to operation. It was
suspected that the vibration of circulation pump might have caused the oil leakage.

Observation
1. There was no safety valve fitted on the thermal oil heater that caught fire.
2. There was no save-all located underneath the circulating pump.
3. The whole boiler room was badly damaged and blackened. All auxiliary
equipment and electrical wiring were seriously damaged. There was a through
crack on the shell of the thermal oil heater.
4. The thermal oil heater was being operated without a safety valve.
5. The Appointed Examiner did not carry out the inspection thoroughly. His
technical assistant carried out part of the inspection for him.

Legal Implication
The owner of the special purpose boiler could be found in breach of the following
provisions of the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 63:
Provisions as to notification of accidents and defects in boilers and pressure
vessels
(1) Where
(a) an accident occurs in or to a boiler or pressure vessel or its
auxiliary equipment; or
(b) the owner of a boiler or pressure vessel becomes aware of any
defect therein or in its auxiliary equipment that is likely to cause
danger to life or damage to property,
the owner of the boiler or pressure vessel shall forthwith cause the use and
operation thereof to be stopped and shall, as soon as practicable and in any event
within 24 hours, notify the Authority of the accident or defect, as the case may be,

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

2.
3.

4.

48

and where applicable, shall, at the same time, send to the Authority the latest
certificate of fitness issued in respect of the boiler or pressure vessel.
Section 22 (1):
Every boiler and its auxiliary equipment shall be properly maintained.
Section 24 (1):
Upon completion of the installation of a new boiler and before the boiler is put
into use, the boiler and its auxiliary equipment shall be examined by an appointed
examiner.
Section 49 (7):
No boiler shall be operated except under the direct supervision of a competent
person whose certificate of competency certifies that he is competent to operate
boilers of the class or type in question.

Recommendation
1. Engage Competent Person(s) to operate the boiler and auxiliaries.
2. Do not tamper with the setting or remove safety valve from a thermal oil heater in
operation.
3. Report any accident to the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Authority within
24 hours.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

Photo 22.1

Connection for pressure gauge that


was removed for investigation

Photo 22.3

No save-all was fitted underneath


the circulating pump

Photo 22.2

Photo 22.4

49

Through crack on the shell of


the thermal oil heater

Whole boiler room was badly damaged

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

50

Case 23
A FURNACE BLOWBACK ACCIDENT RESULTING IN
THE INJURY OF TWO WORKERS

Summary
A furnace blowback accident occurred in 1993 that injured two workers. One worker
suffered from minor burns and the other worker sustained serious face burns. The
burner unit was severely damaged. Only one Competent Person was employed to
direct supervise the operation of two fire-tube boilers and five steam receivers over a
factory floor area of 4,000m2 for day and night shifts.

Circumstances
1. Two workers went to the boiler room to check what was happening after a boiler
alarm was heard.
2. These two workers were injured by the furnace blowback.
3. There was no competent person at the day shift.
4. Six workers were changing clothes inside the boiler room at the time of accident.

Observation
1. The furnace blowback was the result of insufficient purge of the furnace to clear
out the excess fuel accumulated in the furnace with air before ignition.
2. One worker suffered from minor burns and the other suffered from serious face
burns with blistering on his face.
3. The burner unit sustained severe damage.
4. The vicinity of the burner unit was blackened by the blownback hot gases.
5. The air diffuser was full of accumulations of carbon deposits, which indicated
poor combustion condition of the boiler.
6. The burner tip was found wet with fuel oil, which indicated the burner tip was
leaking.
7. The refractory in the furnace was found in a very poor condition. The front end
fire bricks were broken as a result of high fluctuating temperature under flame
impingement.
8. There was a build-up of melted refractory materials solidified at the bottom of the
combustion crown.
9. The boiler room was used as a changing room and was extremely dirty.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

51

Legal Implication
The owner of the special purpose boiler could be found in breach of the following
provisions of the Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 22 (1):
Every boiler and its auxiliary equipment shall be properly maintained.
2. Section 49 (7):
No boiler shall be operated except under the direct supervision of a competent
person whose certificate of competency certifies that he is competent to operate
boilers of the class or type in question.

Recommendation
1. Engage sufficient Competent Persons to operate the boiler and auxiliaries in any
shifts.
2. The boiler room should not be used as a staff changing room and should be kept
tidy and clean at all times.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

Photo 23.1 The damaged and blacken burner unit

Photo 23.3 Air diffuser and wet burner tip

Photo 23.5 Built-up slag at combustion crown

52

Photo 23.2 The leaky burner tips and


air diffuser with carbon deposits

Photo 23.4 Damaged furnace refractory

Photo 23.6 Fuel oil tank with supply & return fuel pipes

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

53

Case 24
BURSTING OF BLOW-DOWN TANK RESULTING IN
THE INJURY OF A COMPETENT PERSON

Summary
In 1993 a boiler blow-down cooling tank burst up. The hot water rushed out from the
tank and scalded a Competent Person. The poor welding of the tank top failed when
the tank was under pressure. The capacity of the tank is too small to hold the boiler
blow-down water with the boiler blow-down cock fully opened for several minutes.

Circumstances
1. The boiler was blown-down for five minutes every morning.
2. The boiler pressure at the time of blowing-down was 700 kPa.
3. When the boiler was being blown-down, the competent person went to check the
blow-down tank to see if it was full.
4. The blow-down tank burst up and the hot water splashed onto the competent
persons body and scalded him.

Observation
1. The blow-down tank was significantly deformed and opened up at the top on one
side.
2. The welding of the tank was poor. There was no root penetration of the welding.
3. The construction and installation of the tank were substandard.
4. The blow-down tank was hydraulically tested to a pressure of 200 kPa as reported
by the Appointed Examiner.
5. The capacity of the tank and the size of the vent pipe were not designed to hold
the boiler blow-down water with the boiler blow-down cock fully opened.
6. The boiler was left unattended while the blow-down cock was fully opened.

Recommendation
1. The Appointed Examiner should ensure that the boiler auxiliaries were
constructed and installed according to the recognised standards before issuing the
Certificate of Fitness.
2. Any modifications made to the boiler and its auxiliaries should be examined by
Appointed Examiner before they are put back to use.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

Photo 24.1

The blow-down tank was deformed


and opened up

Photo 24.3 and 24.4

Photo 24.5

Photo 24.2

Cooling coil inside the blow-down tank

The blow-down tank was deformed and opened up

Inadequate stiffeners were installed


inside the poorly constructed
blow-down tank

Photo 24.6

Deformed stiffeners inside


the blow-down tank

54

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

55

Case 25
AN ACCIDENT INVOLVING THE SPLASH OF
CONTENTS INSIDE AN UNREGISTERED AUTOCLAVE
Summary
A serious accident involving an autoclave was reported in 2002. After the door of an
unregistered autoclave was unduly forced open, the contents inside the pressurised
autoclave splashed out and injured two staff members. They were sent to hospital for
medical treatment.

Circumstances
The autoclave was loaded with a number of glass containers which were being sterilised.
Upon finishing the sterilisation process, the autoclave door was found stuck with traces
of water seeping through the door gasket. A female quality control technician at the
scene asked a male assistant quality control manager for assistance. After the
autoclave door was forced open, hot liquid and steam as well as fragments of the glass
containers splashed out of the autoclave. Both staff members sustained scald and cut
injuries. They were hospitalised for medical treatment.

Observation
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

The autoclave had not been registered and no safety interlocking device was
available to prevent the autoclave door from being opened under pressure;
Both victims had not received proper training;
Warning notices were not posted at the scene of accident;
The staff failed to observe and follow safety measures and instructions properly;
and
The staff did not use suitable personal protective equipment at the time of accident.

Legal Implication
The owner of the autoclave may be found in breach of the following provisions of the
Boilers and Pressure Vessels Ordinance:
1. Section 13:
The owner of a new boiler shall, not less than 30 days before the day on which he
intends to put the boiler into use, deliver to the Authority(1) one copy of the makers certificate and one copy of the certificate of
inspection during construction issued in respect of the boiler or pressure
vessel by a recognised inspection body; or
(2) documentary evidence, to the satisfaction of the Authority, that the boiler or
pressure vessel complies with a recognised engineering standard or code in
respect of

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

2.

3.

4.

56

(a) the welders employed and welding procedures used in the


construction and erection of and, if repairs have been carried out, in
the repairs to, the boiler or pressure vessel;
(b) heat treatment before and after welding;
(c) tests and inspections carried out on the boiler or pressure vessel; and
(d) any other relevant technical details that the Authority may, by notice
in writing, specify; or
(3) where the owner can deliver neither the documents referred to in paragraph (a)
nor the documents referred to in paragraph (b), details of the design and
methods of construction, inspection and testing of the boiler or pressure vessel
and its auxiliary equipment.
Section 15(A):
The owner of a new boiler shall, not later than 30 days preceding the day on which
he intends to put the same into use, apply to the Authority in the prescribed form
for registration of the same under this Ordinance.
Section 49(1):
No boiler or pressure vessel and its auxiliary equipment shall be used or operated
unless it has been examined in accordance with this Ordinance and a certificate of
fitness has been issued in respect thereof after that examination.
Section 49(7):
No boiler shall be operated except under the direct supervision of a competent
person whose certificate of competency certifies that he is competent to operate
boilers of the class or type in question.

Recommendation
1.
2.
3.
4.

Autoclaves must be operated by persons who are fully conversant with the
safety requirements for autoclaves.
Warning signs and notices should be posted near autoclaves.
Safe operating instructions and precautions must be strictly observed and
followed.
Suitable personal protective equipment should be used during the operation of
autoclaves.

Brief Accident Cases of Boilers and Pressure Vessels in Hong Kong

Photo 25.1

Autoclave door without pressure safety interlocking device

57